No Good Deed: The Recovery of Philadelphia’s First Baptist Church Cemetery

Author(s): Anna Dhody; Kimberlee Moran

Year: 2018


What to do when one box of bones becomes a whole cemetery? In late 2016, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that human remains were uncovered at a local construction site, 218 Arch Street, formerly a cemetery that closed in 1859, its dead supposedly having been interred elsewhere. Because the site is privately owned and the construction privately funded, no clear legal guidelines exist governing authority over human remains. Seeing a potential research project, the authors contacted the developers and offered to take the small banker’s box of human remains for analysis and reburial. Months later, the construction firm contacted the authors with a developing problem. Dozens of whole coffins were being unearthed daily, and no state or local government agency was willing to step in and take charge. In the absence of authority, with a construction deadline looming, the authors conducted a salvage archaeological operation to save the remains. This presentation will discuss the legal and ethical issues surrounding the Arch Street Project, which continues to evolve in magnitude and complexity.

Cite this Record

No Good Deed: The Recovery of Philadelphia’s First Baptist Church Cemetery. Anna Dhody, Kimberlee Moran. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443807)

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Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22297